Earlier this month, we held our breath as Hurricane Dorian took aim at South Carolina’s coast.
When we were in Dorian’s crosshairs, politics didn’t matter. Leaders from across the state fought to keep our citizens safe, preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.
Thankfully, Dorian stayed far enough off our coast to cause much less damage than had it taken a different track.
Our thoughts are with those who suffered through tornadoes, flooding, and other damages to home and property. And we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and on the road to repair and recovery if you were affected.
With the storm now in our rear-view mirror, we held our breath again last week as there was another major issue affecting our coast. This time, however, it was a bipartisan vote in Congress to permanently ban drilling in the Atlantic.
The bill passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support!
We then celebrated this victory in Charleston with federal, state, and local leaders in that included Gov. Henry McMaster and Mark Sanford.
As we look back both at our state’s preparation to Dorian and the House’s vote to ban offshore drilling, we are collectively drawn to both how lucky we were this time around, but also what we can accomplish when we get politics out of the way.
We were lucky because South Carolina didn’t take the full brunt of this storm.
Between 1924 and 2019, only 35 hurricanes have grown to Category 5 storms in the Atlantic. But five of those have occurred in the last four years — signaling that our climate is changing. We know that our oceans are warming — and, as they warm, they provide fuel for massive and destructive storms.
But we were also lucky because Hurricane Dorian didn’t have the opportunity to uproot hundreds of oil rigs as it marched up our coast. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, broke a drilling platform loose from its moorings and washed it ashore in Alabama.
These last few weeks have also reminded us of what South Carolina can do when our leaders get politics out of the way.
The quick and decisive preparation for Dorian — from Republicans and Democrats alike — showed that we can and will come together to protect our state. And the bipartisan support we have seen on the State level — whether the unanimous passage of the Energy Freedom Act or state Sen. Chip Campsen’s one-year ban on offshore drilling — shows that we don’t have to have a hurricane bearing down on us to come together and lead.
Many say that things are different in Congress — that politics is broken once you get outside of South Carolina. But the fact that state and federal leaders from South Carolina came together twice in two weeks and put our state over party shows that things can be different — that things aren’t truly broken.
We have much to be thankful for right now. We avoided a direct hit from Dorian, and we’re on our way to ensuring that when the next hurricane comes up our coast we’re still oil-rig free.
Together, we have shown that we can and do stand as a united South Carolina — both to respond to hurricanes and the threats of dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. And when we stand together, we can do incredible things.
Joe Cunningham represents South Carolina’s First Congressional District. John Tynan is executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina.